2. “Caprice in A minor, op. 1 no. 24” by Niccolo Paganini
A rather disappointing week, as I’ve enjoyed only two musical bits, to be indulgent with this particular work at no. 2. The 24 Caprices by Niccolo Paganini are notorious for their difficulty, as they explore different violin skills. Among them, the 24th one is the most difficult piece, which is why it’s so difficult to find a version that’s not scratching your ears out or that’s technically correct but avoids that mechanical and sterile sound. Out of everything I’ve checked out, this performance by Itzhak Perlman is by far the only one I’ve actually enjoyed listening to.
1. “Symphony no. 5 in C minor, op. 67” by Ludwig van Beethoven
Not a big surprise that one of the most famous classical compositions landed at no. 1 this week. The 5th Symphony by Beethoven has one of the most known four-note opening motif, and it was nicknamed Schicksals-Sinfonie (symphony of destiny) or the Victory Symphony. It’s also the second work by Beethoven included on the Voyager Golden Record sent into space, alongside with his String Quartet no. 13. Since there are over 80 recordings of this work, it can get pretty overwhelming to choose one to listen. So, after some good old internet research, the consensus seems to be that Carlos Kleiber’s recordings are an absolute must to check out (even if there are some critics concerning the last movement), while Arturo Toscanini is right behind him, claiming the fastest version ever recorded. After these two, opinions vary a lot and there are tons of different recommendations but there is no agreement regarding best performances, as they can be quite varied depending on the conductors’ interpretations of the work. Ultimately, it all comes down to personal preferences in terms of rhythm, grandeur, power and so on. Hence, this would be my starter kit for this symphony, in no particular order after the first two positions:
- Carlos Kleiber, Wiener Philharmoniker: IDAGIO, Amazon
- Arturo Toscanini, New York Philharmonic, April 1933, New York, Carnegie Hall New York: IDAGIO, Amazon
- Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, November 2011, New York City, Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage: IDAGIO, Amazon
- Willem Mengelberg, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, 1940, Amsterdam: IDAGIO, Amazon
- Herbert von Karajan, Berliner Philharmoniker: IDAGIO, Amazon
- George Szell, The Cleveland Orchestra: IDAGIO, Amazon
Disclaimer: this is not an exhaustive list of all the works curated by Clemency Burton-Hill in the book “Year of wonder: classical music for every day”. To enjoy the full catalogue of pieces proposed by the author along with her comments on the composers and the music itself, feel free to pick up her awesome book here (not affiliated, nor sponsored).